Ian Westwood intends to seize the opportunity beckoning in 2017 and provide Warwickshire with a productive anchor at the top of the batting order throughout the Specsavers County Championship season.
Former captain Westwood is set for a key role for the Bears in four-day credit. With Varun Chopra having returned to Essex, the left-hander will shoulder a lot of responsibility for setting down platforms on which the likes of Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Sam Hain can build.
Westwood is eager to rise to the challenge, after overcoming a considerable personal one last season.
A nightmare start to the 2016 season saw him dropped to the 2nd XI. But he showed an exemplary attitude to knuckle down in the 2nds and relocate form and, after his first-team recall, was back among the runs, scoring a century, against Durham at Chester-le-Street, and three half-centuries.
Now the 34-year-old is determined to keep one of those opening positions nailed down.
“I think there is still a role for me in the team,” he said. “We have lost two batters and not brought anybody in so there is an opportunity there for me, as there is for all the batters. It’s up to me to take it.
“I am still motivated and enjoying my cricket and, as long as that continues to be the case, then I’d like to keep playing as long as I can.
“Last year was very tough. I couldn’t buy a run at the start of the season and when that happens I think your belief always wavers a little bit. I got some very good balls and one or two poor decisions but perhaps I was guilty of thinking a little bit too much about it and tinkering rather than just going out to bat with a clear mind.
“Then I went back into the 2nd XI and just worked hard and tried to do what you have to do, score big runs to force yourself back in the first team. When my chance came again towards the end of the season I was pretty happy with the way it went. This time round I have just got to perform from the start and put a whole season together.”
Westwood knows that the bar will be set high by head coach Jim Troughton and sport director Ashley Giles. They are two men he knows very well having been captain while Giles was director of cricket before resigning the role which then passed to Troughton.
“I have worked a lot with Ash and Jim and know what they are about,” he said. “They love this club and have been part of a lot of success with it so they have all that experience of how to win trophies.
“It is a really exciting time for the club. We have just got to start the season well and put ourselves in a strong position early on and then sustain it.”
Unlikely to figure in any white-ball cricket, Westwood can anticipate a season with a couple of several-week breaks after the schedule was changed to contain all the Royal London One-Day Cup group phase and most of NatWest T20 Blast group in self-contained blocks.
“That will be a little bit strange but it will give me a bit of time to concentrate on other things,” he said. “I am interested in umpiring and coaching and am getting qualified while I am still playing so that I might have a few options when the time comes to stop. But hopefully there is plenty of first-class cricket left in me yet.”
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